Looking for a crowd-pleaser tahchin (Persian savoury rice cake) that vegetarians can also enjoy? Go no farther. Here is what you’ve been looking for all the time! Seriously, my vegetarian tahchin is so comforting and pretty and so delicious even non-vegetarians won’t notice the absence of meat or chicken.
This gorgeous rice cake is my interpretation of the classic Persian tahchin which means “layered in the bottom”. There are many variations to the classic tahchin. The golden saffron infused rice and yoghurt cake may be layered with succulent lamb, chicken or even fish. Mine is layered with delicious and subtly spiced sautéed aubergines and mushrooms.
Sometimes only half of the rice is coloured with saffron. This golden layer goes into the bottom of the pan, is covered with a layer of cooked meat or chicken and then topped with plain rice. I like to mix all of my rice with yoghurt and saffron. Pure indulgence!
Saffron is the most expensive of all spices, right? But given that a little saffron goes a long way, it is not really as expensive to use as one might think. Some shop-bought spice mixes and marinades are definitely much more expensive than Persian saffron. Nowadays it is very easy to buy quality Persian saffron online. And saffron is the only expensive ingredient in this dish so overall this won’t be an expensive dish to make at all.
To get the best colour and aroma from saffron you need to grind the threads with a mortar and pestle (add a pinch of coarse sugar if the threads are hard to grind) and to brew it with very hot water for a few minutes.
I often make this rice cake when I’m entertaining vegetarian friends but non-vegetarians say they don’t even notice the absence of meat or chicken. Compliments usually pour when the rice is brought to the table with a sprinkling of jewel-like barberries. The good thing is you can serve this tahchin as an accompaniment to any braised subtly flavoured chicken, duck or game if you must serve meat as well.
The most important thing when making tahchin is to use a non-stick baking dish but don’t worry if you don’t have one. I experimented with non-stick liner and the result was excellent. Non-stick liner is inexpensive, re-usable and can be cut to shape to fit any dish. It also helps you use less oil to keep the ingredients from sticking to the dish.
The amounts given in this recipe will feed six people as a main course but you can easily divide the amounts in half for a smaller cake. Leftovers are really delicious. Just heat in a microwave oven, covered, for a couple of minutes and enjoy!
To make enough to feed six people you will need:
For the vegetable layer
For the rice layer: